What is to become of the Wan­der­er plants in Chemnitz

The Gemac com­pa­ny is the only major user in the for­mer indus­tri­al area and is strug­gling with the decay around it. Now the own­ers of the cityscape-defin­ing build­ings have pre­sent­ed their plans.

Areal Wanderer-Werke

The Wan­der­er site stretch­es between the rail­road line (in front) and Zwick­auer Straße. Most of the build­ings are emp­ty and dilap­i­dat­ed. The biggest excep­tion: the head­quar­ter of the GEMAC com­pa­ny on the left edge of the pic­ture. Pho­to: ERZ-Foto/­Ge­org Ulrich Dostmann

Chem­nitz. It is the excep­tion in the rather drea­ry and decay­ing Wan­der­er plants area. The Gemac com­pa­ny build­ing, a three-sto­ry clink­er-built indus­tri­al build­ing, at the south­west­ern end of the area is ful­ly ren­o­vat­ed — and, above all, bustling. The com­pa­ny, which was found­ed in 1992 and spe­cial­izes in the devel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion of mea­sur­ing sys­tems and sen­sors, has been locat­ed there for a good 20 years. A good 70 employ­ees work here in a two-shift sys­tem, and the order sit­u­a­tion is very good. Man­ag­ing Direc­tor Tilo Rothkirch has his eye on an exten­sion in the future, but first wants to con­sult with the own­ers of the adja­cent build­ings. Look­ing out of his office win­dow, he sees main­ly unused ruins. “It’s very impor­tant to us that the Wan­der­er plants is filled with life again,” says Tilo Rothkirch.

While oth­er for­mer indus­tri­al com­plex­es such as the Wirk­bau on Annaberg­er Strasse and the Spin­nereimaschi­nen­bau on Altchem­nitzer Strasse are grad­u­al­ly being revived, noth­ing is hap­pen­ing at the Wan­der­er site. The main com­plex, the Wan­der­er-Werke, was built almost 130 years ago for vehi­cle and machine con­struc­tion. Ini­tial­ly, the “Wan­der­er Fahrrad­w­erke AG” pro­duced main­ly bicy­cles, and lat­er also milling machines, motor­cy­cles, type­writ­ers and cars. After the Sec­ond World War, the com­pa­ny was expro­pri­at­ed and bro­ken up. In West Ger­many, Wan­der­er-Werke AG con­tin­ued to exist — under dif­fer­ent names until its insol­ven­cy in 2010.

The indus­tri­al site in Schö­nau was also used for small-scale pro­duc­tion dur­ing the GDR era. Since reuni­fi­ca­tion, despite repeat­ed attempts by investors, vacan­cy and decay have dom­i­nat­ed the approx­i­mate­ly five-hectare area. Apart from GEMAC, only a few com­pa­nies have set­tled here so far, includ­ing a mov­ing com­pa­ny. There are no oth­er forms of use.

This is now to change. The plans of the own­ers were pre­sent­ed to the mem­bers of the Com­mit­tee for Urban Devel­op­ment and Mobil­i­ty in a non-pub­lic meet­ing. “Freie Presse” has received the pre­sen­ta­tion. Accord­ing to the plans, the area is to devel­op away from a pure­ly com­mer­cial area to a mixed area con­sist­ing of res­i­den­tial, work, leisure and social facilities.

Tilo Rothkirch, Geschäftsführer GEMAC

GEMAC has been at home here for 20 years. Man­ag­ing Direc­tor Tilo Rothkirch is think­ing about expan­sion — and would like to see the area revi­tal­ized. Pho­to: Andreas Sei­del

The cityscape-defin­ing Wan­der­er plants on Zwick­auer Strasse is to be split into four units. The largest part is intend­ed to be used for sci­ence and cre­ativ­i­ty, anoth­er area for exhi­bi­tions and events. In addi­tion, stu­dios and res­i­den­tial lofts are planned. The own­er of the works is an asset man­age­ment com­pa­ny based in Berlin. It sub­mit­ted a build­ing appli­ca­tion in March, but City Hall con­sid­ers it incomplete.

Appar­ent­ly more con­crete are the plans for the long six-sto­ry build­ing with the large glass front. The own­er of this build­ing is Rock Immo­bilien Gesellschaft from Leipzig. It wants to con­vert about two-thirds of the build­ing — espe­cial­ly the upper floors — into apart­ments. The remain­ing part will be reserved for offices, co-work­ing spaces and small busi­ness­es. There are also plans to build two new hous­es on the green space in front of the build­ing, which will pri­mar­i­ly house small­er com­mer­cial spaces.

To enable the own­ers to imple­ment their plans, the Com­mit­tee for Urban Devel­op­ment and Mobil­i­ty has ini­ti­at­ed the cor­re­spond­ing con­struc­tion plans. It also defined what is unde­sir­able in the area: car deal­er­ships, broth­els, gas sta­tions, gar­den­ing busi­ness­es and large-scale retail such as super­mar­kets. There are enough of the lat­ter in the sur­round­ing area — for exam­ple at the Sieg­mar train sta­tion, explained Bör­ries Butenop, head of the city’s plan­ning department.

Beyond the ideas of the own­ers, the city hall has its own plans for the Wan­der­er site. It is con­sid­ered one of the focal points for the redesign and upgrad­ing of Zwick­auer Strasse in the com­ing years. Among oth­er things, the city hall wants to extend the street­car line to Reichen­brand and have it relo­cat­ed to Zwick­auer Strasse. A small town square with a trans­fer point, includ­ing charg­ing sta­tions and an infor­ma­tion point, is there­fore to be built at the Wan­der­er Quar­ter. How­ev­er, all of this will prob­a­bly take years: The devel­op­ment plan that has now been ini­ti­at­ed by the com­mit­tee will prob­a­bly not be in place until the end of 2023.

© Copy­right Chem­nitzer Ver­lag und Druck GmbH & Co. KG

Author: Ben­jamin Lummer

pub­lished on 06.10.2022 in „Freie Presse”